That's incredibly shortsighted. Federal laws and federal and industry regulations--including the Patriot Act, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), Basel II, Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC Rule 17a-4, NASD Rule 3010 and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21, Part 11--dictate electronic records retention requirements for businesses based in the United States and abroad, and impose penalties that dwarf the price of the automated e-mail archiving products we evaluated in "Yeah, We've Got That E-Mail,". Last March, Banc of America Securities paid a $10 million civil penalty to settle an SEC enforcement action for failing to promptly produce e-mail records that were deemed important to an investigation.
We could go on with the horror stories, but the bottom line is that the 83 percent of readers without a well-planned e-mail retention policy are living on borrowed time. When (not if) you're hit with an e-mail discovery request, how many hours will it take to scour bloated e-mail storage systems? Backup tapes could be as old as your eldest senior staff member and contain data from e-mail systems that haven't been used for years. Individual Outlook files alone could involve hundreds or thousands of PCs and laptops. We don't know about your staffing levels, but around here, a lot of other critical stuff wouldn't get done.
And it's just as vital that you systematically delete records. Regulations that require e-mail retention contain time limits. Be it three, five or seven years, if you don't remove e-mail from the archive when it reaches the end of its regulated life, you're storing a liability time bomb just waiting for a plaintiff to set it off (see "The Trouble With E-Mail,", for more on the legal issues of records retention). Tape-backup systems don't provide the granularity necessary for this level of records management.
A new class of product, by melding aspects of records management, document management, indexing, search and retrieval, security, content analysis, and policy and process management, provides a framework for active e-mail archiving that meets or exceeds regulatory compliance requirements. And the same features that make these products valuable for legal discovery also can help your organization mine the knowledge in hundreds of thousands of e-mail messages.